Story for the day: The Matter of Nobility
The commander stood in the main room of the commons gazing out the window the Den Asaan sat at their table and began to fashion his first letter to the Den Ashan Ghodhina, requesting further information into the expeditions led by the Haanta to the southern continent. The commander heard the sounds of the crackling fires of the hearth and the incessant scribbling of the giant’s powdered writing implements. The noises and happenings about the commons and the keep were amplified many times by the state of stunned revelation that inundated her. She could only stare out the window and curl the long ends of her hair around her finger.
She eagerly awaited Alasdair’s return. The subject of her heritage would matter little to him, as they had been friends since the time of their schooling together. Over ten years he had known her as the daughter of a poor farmer made impoverished by the actions a most cruel brother and the king’s objectiveness for the situation was much needed. Her mate was ecstatic at the prospect, she was confused, but Alasdair would provide the middle ground for he was neither a poor Frewyn farmer or a head scout for the Haanta. She had always known herself as a MacDaede but her greatest anxiety was not that her heredity as a Frewyn would be questioned, she he had grown a Frewyn and therefore would always be one, but that her lineage as a Haanta would be recognized.
In her quiet state and unblinking state by the window, she thought of many disquieting inquiries she wished to ask. She wanted to know everything all at once: who the man was who had come from the islands, how he came to be injured in the farmsteads of the kingdom, why he had given his grandmother a son when their regulations would disallow for unsanctioned Khopra with a Dhargovhari, why he had left her to care for a Haanta Mivaari on her own, why he never returned to collect her if she led a life of wretchedness by an absent and unfeeling husband, why her father would be moved to kill her grandmother’s husband upon his return, and why she was forbidden from knowing any of the truths that would have spared her from the later uncertainty. It was a sorry business to be told so much in so little time, and the commander was impatient for Alasdair’s impartiality.
Her mate joined her by the window once his letters were completed and sent. He said nothing when he approached but the commander was resigned to find solace in the combing of his thick fingers through her muddled locks. He brushed her hair aside and leaned to rest his chin in the nape of her neck. The commander managed to smile at the giant’s content docility. She gave him a shrewd grin to see him so complacent with the supposition of her lineage. “Did you ever suspect there was something amiss with me, Iimon Ghaala?”
“Not in that manner,” the giant quietly admitted. “However, you always confused me. I knew you could not be as the rest of your people.”
“Because you believe most of them are so ignorant and insipid?” she scoffed.
“Because they are unenlightened to their purpose.”
“But if I do share blood with your blessed people, how can I be a woman and a warrior?”
“You were born here, therefore the question is irrelevant.”
“I adore how you avert quandaries with your brusque and decided replies.”
The giant humphed and pressed his nose into the center of his mate’s cheek to quiet her. His
intended diversion had worked for a few moments until the giggles of the noblewomen could be heard in the main hall across from the training yard below. The flock of young women was strident in their mirth and as the giant was about to make a few assertions on the further differences between the commander and the remainder of her people, his mate spoke.
“I remember when I was young how I very much wanted to be like them,” she mused with a fleering countenance, motioning toward the hastening royals. “How catastrophic a notion.” She shook her head and sighed. “Fortunately, I learned a harsh lesson in the manners between peasantry and nobility very early in life.” She paused to watch the image of the young Frewyn royals hop through the windows of the opposing hall on their way to the courtyard. She recalled how desperately she wished to find her place among them, to laugh without a care and to wear the latest garb, but all these desires were dashed when she realized that she would have to relinquish her intelligence and integrity to be considered as one of them. “As the daughter of a would-be lady, my mother filled my head with such nonsense as the want for pretty gowns and finery when was a child, but as the daughter of a farmer I was too sensible and spirited to harbour this conception for long. Once, and I believe this was my mother’s doing, I was invited to an evening party at one of the lord’s estates. I must have been no older than eleven at the time. I was delighted to attend, as a farmer’s daughter is seldom invited to anything of the sort. I was scrubbed thoroughly and sent off. My mother was thrilled for my going out but my father was concerned. He feared I would be ridiculed even though my father was a landowner at the time of decent consequence, but he was still uneasy about how I would be treated.” The commander began to smile. “I was conveyed to the estate where I was led into the drawing room. There was a set of white leather cushions I was bade to sit upon while I was waiting to be received. I was enchanted with them and every object in the room, and began to make the distinction between our farmhouse and the delicacy of the estate. I loved our house, but I was young and simply excited to see something other than cows and fences.”
The Den Asaan sensed a foreboding event and clamped his hands down upon his mate’s wide hips while holding her against him for comfort.
The commander’s smile soon faded and gave way to an expression of mild sadness. “I did not know this,” she continued, “but beneath the cushions was a mechanism designed to regulate the fires of the house. I had no idea such a contrivance existed, but in my haste to sit, I had broken the device. The fire in the drawing room went out and the family of the estate was immediately upon me, wondering what I had done. There was a great deal of shouting and blame that I couldn’t understand, and regardless of my meager age or rank I was cast out of the estate never to be let back. I cried,” she said with a short laugh. “I thought I had done something atrocious. My father assured me I had done nothing wrong and offered to pay the family for the damages shoulder there have been any. They spurned by father’s offer and said nothing in reply. Eventually it was discovered that I hadn’t broken it. I had only moved one of the dials. My mother demanded I make an apology in hopes of salvaging our reputation amongst the Tyferrim nobles but my father wouldn’t have it. He had done with their impropriety and he requested their apologies for humiliating his child without cause. No apology was made.” The commander smirked and looked at the Den Asaan. “I had never seen my father so displeased. He asked me to never accept an invitation to a gathering of lords and ladies again and I never disobeyed my father’s word when he gave it. Now that I recollect it, I am surprised he did not exhibit his ethnaa upon them.” She grinned to herself as she imagined the horror on the faces of those who had slighted her when meeting a large and angry Haanta farmer. It was difficult for her to fancy Jaicobh MacDaede, most gentle creature in Tyfferim, as a raging beast but the notion of her father unleashing his pent fury upon anyone entertained her intellect immensely.
The Den Asaan hummed, pondering the history his mate had retold. “Your people are cruel to Mivaari they believe have no purpose,” he said with a disdainful sigh. “Everyone has worth and everyone should be treated equally.” His words had overpowered him and his rising feeling compelled him to grip his mate’s shoulders and turn her around, culling her undivided attention. “You are valued here, woman,” Rautu affirmed. “You are mine. I have chosen you as my Ataas Traala. This makes you more valuable than any other.” The Den Asaan pulled his mate forward and he leaned to devour her. He parted her lips by molding his hand round her chin and forced himself upon her in a pleasurable tenor.
After their long osculation, the commander pulled away to breathe. “When you become sentimental, I become afraid,” she said with a glint of depravity in her dark eyes.
Although the opportunity of Khopra was abound, it was interrupted by the sound of Alasdair’s carriage returning from Hallanys. The commander was encouraged to greet him and was given the offer of accompaniment to the main gate of the castle but she graciously declined it, wishing to tell Alasdair of her discovery in private.
Alasdair and Carrigh came from the carriage seeming a bit roughed and pleased and walked together toward the servant’s quarter. The king was thanked numerous times for his kindliness and conveyance and though Alasdair assured the seamstress that he was glad to have gone with her, Carrigh would not be silenced in her appreciation. She spoke of it until the tailor was reached and upon their parting, she treated the king’s goodbyes with an unbidden kiss. The king responded in kind, taking pleasure in her closeness one last time before their parting for the evening, and whispered his I-will-see- you-tomorrows as he left. His heart was aflutter with joy. The capital had not burned during his absence, Mrs. Cuineill’s position as Regent of Westren was maintained, he had secured the affection of a mother and the attachment of a doting lover, and everything in the world was right until he noted the commander’s madly vexed expression staring at him from the kitchen doorway as he walked back toward his chambers. She stood before him with two cups of tea in her hand and held on out to him meaning that she wished an audience with him. Alasdair knew his intimate friend. He understood that her quiet entreaty meant something grave had happened while he was gone and she wished him to sit to that she might tell him of it. A dreadful feeling overtook him. He took the tea from her hand and sat at the kitchen table with her.
They spent a moment in silence, Alasdair waiting for the commander to speak, and she wishing him to commence to make the subject more easily broached. They each sipped their tea and the commander decided to speak first.
“How was your journey?” she said with half a smile, noting the king’s ruined hair and ruffled clothes.
“Excellent,” Alasdair breathed, grinning famously. “Yours?”
“Informative. I learned that my father was a murderer and my grandfather was possibly a Haanta.”
A wave of bemusement and incredulity rushed on Alasdair. “. . . Oh,” he said after a moment of staring. “That’s . . . I don’t actually know what that is. Can I ask how this is likely?”
The commander relayed the particulars of their traveling to the farmsteads and inquiring everything that was necessary after the short and intimate conversation shared with the seamstress.
Alasdair deliberated and stared into his tea. “How do you feel about it?” was his first question.
“I’m not entirely certain,” the commander admitted. “I still am who I am but it does make me wonder about my father. Life would have been so much easier for him if he was born on the islands. he would still be alive farming to his heart’s content.”
“But you wouldn’t be here, and then neither would Rautu, and then neither would the rest of Frewyn.”
“That is very true,” the commander said, smiling at the king’s calm answer. “There are many things about this entire affair that disturb me. Why was my grandmother so maligned for wanting to have a child her husband couldn’t give her? Did my father really kill Drainas when he returned from Farriage? Why did my father never tell me the truth about my grandfather?”
“I don’t think anyone could answer these questions,” Alasdair said softly. “And even if someone could, what would it change?”
“Nothing, I suppose. Although, my real grandfather could be alive somewhere on the islands. Granted, if he were still alive, he would be near his death and probably wouldn’t remember my grandmother, but I would like to know why he never returned for her or his child. The Haanta are very particular about having their children raised in a closed environment. I wonder why my father was an exception.”
“Perhaps another war called him back, just like Tomas’ father.”
“It’s possible,” the commander sighed, looked down at the table with a blank expression.
“Boudicca,” Alasdair entreated her, venturing to use her name in a kindly manner. “You’re still the same snide, Frewyn woman I know you to be regardless of your father’s crimes or odd heritage.”
“I suppose so,” the commander replied with a wink to her king. “When I once asked my father if he loved me the way I was, he said to me: you laugh well, you eat well and you fight well. This is what it means to be a Frewyn. I suppose he learned such a lesson as he got older,” she mused, and said smiling, “. . . and older and older and older.”
They exchanged a good-natured laugh and leaned back in their chairs as the discussion began to lighten in tone.
“It must have been difficult for him, having to live so secluded to keep others from asking questions. My poor father. I suppose I’m really just sad for him than I am shocked for myself. He must have been so lonely for such a time, to have to wait for a generation to pass before he could reemerge and look for companionship. My father had good friends eventually. He had a good life for a time, before my mother grew horrid and Tyferrim grew poor. But,” she murmured, tapering her gaze, “I cannot remember a time when he wasn’t happy. If he was of Haanta lineage, the object of money was nothing to him. He had only to enjoy the comforts of tilled earth and an unmarriageable daughter.”
“I remember seeing your mother try to sell you off to the nobles.”
“Which instance?” the commander scoffed.
“I’ve seen at least two, both of them horrendous to watch.”
“It was what it was. I ignored it most of the time. It was my father who was more wounded by the display. He didn’t enjoy the notion of his consolation in family being sold to the highest bidder.”
Alasdair meant to laugh at the woman’s unfortunate past but he suddenly remembered, “Does this mean you’re going to age like one of them?”
“I’m not entirely certain,” the commander said in confusion. “My heritage is somewhat varied, as my father was not the standard Haanta variety. I don’t believe I shall but that doesn’t mean I won’t.”
Alasdair raised his brows and rested his hands behind his head. “Well, at least when I’m gone I know the kingdom will still be safe.”
“Alasdair,” the commander whispered, shaking her head and laughing.
“Does this mean you’re going to convert as well?”
“By the Gods, no,” she shouted. “I would have to give up my mockery of the Haanta mandate. No family history is worth relinquishing such amusement.”
Alasdair replied that he was pleased to hear the woman’s profession and remained in the kitchen with her enjoying the oddness of the circumstance for a little while longer.